Loss of Language

I have just landed in Thailand for a three month trip, volunteering in the hill-tribes in the north of teach people English. Today, I took a trip into town to make sure I knew where everything was before Iset off on my Temple Trek tomorrow morning.

It’s amazing how lost you feel when you find yourself somewhere where even the letters in the alphabet are different to your own. It isn’t like going to France, where some of the words are recognisable to you simply because they look like their English counterpart; it’s like, suddenly, someone has taken all of your words away.

You feel embarrassed, confused, afraid. Even simple things like a ‘hello’ become a strain somehow. And everyone seems to know that you can’t speak their language. They look at you with an urgent pity as they try to explain directions to you.

It’s all very peculiar. It alters our decision making: does that restaurant have a menu in English? Should I go to this place, or that place? Even street signs don’t offer much comfort.

Hopefully, this severing of ties between my tongue and my ability to communicate might help me learn some Thai practically, rather than from a book. It might even pave the way for some interesting short stories.

  1. akhen12 said:

    Esme, enjoy your time in Thailand, I did in the mid nineteen sixties. Although back then I was on leave from the war just across the border in Vietnam.

  2. gezza11 said:

    Have a great time, and I’m sure your students will! If you are going to write stories with a bit of Thai flavour (so to speak), read Paulo Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl – it is set not too far away, and might inspire you a bit 🙂

    Keep posting!


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